We eventually arrived at the Kakum National Park. Just before the entrance to the park was a palm wine seller who was keen to give us a taste of his wine. He beckoned and waved at us so enthusiastically I thought his arm might fall off! The last time I had palm wine was at the Nigerian tapas club, Chukus in London. Palm wine is popular across Africa where it is known as matango, mbuh, tumbu liquor, white stuff in Cameroon; emu, nkwu, oguro in Nigeria; poyo in Sierra Leone, nsamba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; “Manjenvo” in Cabinda Angola; nsafufuo in Ghana.
In Ghana the palm wine (nsafufuo) sap is usually extracted and collected by a palm wine tapper. The palm wine is mainly produced through fermentation of the sugary palm sap collected from palm trees.
The white liquid that is collected (either from the live tree or by felling it) tends to be very sweet and non-alcoholic before it is fermented. I found out the hard way that the palm sap begins to ferment immediately after collection and that within two hours the fermentation process would have turned the sap into an aromatic wine with at least a 4% alcoholic content.
I had of course stored a bottle of the palm wine in my bag hoping to have it later. However, four hours after purchase we heard a large bang in the car. We stopped and checked the car’s tyres but they all seem to be fine. It was only when we got home that we realised that the bottled palm wine had continued to ferment. The gas produced from the fermentation process caused the palm wine to explode out of its capped plastic bottle. A day is apparently the longest palm wine can be allowed to ferment after tapping or else it turns into vinegar.
It has to be said that palm wine plays a significant role in Ghana and many other African countries during occasions and traditional events. It is served as special drink to guests during celebrations such as child out-doorings and marriage engagements.
In Igboland, palm wine is customarily given to the bride by the head of the family. The bride confirms her husband by serving him the palm wine after searching for him from among the crowd of attendees.
Pouring palm wine into a calabash
As we entered the Forest Coolers restaurant at the Kakum park I noticed that it was full of school kids on a trip to experience the canopy walk. I was later told that the kids are then taken on a hike where they are educated on the various trees that make up the forest in the region.
I had done the entire seven or so canopy walk before and and hated every moment of it. Being suspended 150-200 feet above the floor of the forest was not my idea of fun so I sat it out this time round.
Instead I headed to one of two craft well stocked craft shops in the park to browse. The browsing, however, turned into a purchase when the warriors cap below caught my eye. From about 250 GH cedis (60 dollars) I managed to beat the seller down to 180 GH cedis. An absolute bargain!
An hour later, I was joined by an excited Matt and James, with canopy walk completion certificates in hand!